Tuesday 12 September 2023

Lot 139

Robert Colquhoun, British 1914-1962 - Head of Boy (or possibly 'Kitchen-Boy - Brescia'), c.1950; oil...

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Lot 139

Robert Colquhoun, 
British 1914-1962 - 
Head of Boy (or possibly 'Kitchen-Boy - Brescia'), c.1950; 

Price Realised: £26,000

Estimate: £20,000 - £30,000

Price realised is hammer price plus fees (30% Buyers Premium inclusive of VAT).

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Lot 139


Robert Colquhoun, 
British 1914-1962 - 

Head of Boy (or possibly 'Kitchen-Boy - Brescia'), c.1950; 

oil on canvas, signed upper left 'Colquhoun', 40.7 x 30.7 cm (unframed) (ARR) 

with The Lefevre Gallery, London (partial label attached to the reverse); 
private collection, purchased directly from the Artist; 
private collection, gifted by the previous owner 

possibly The Lefevre Gallery, London, 'Recent Paintings by Robert Colquhoun', December 1950, cat. no.3  

possibly Roger Bristow, 'The Last Bohemians, The Two Roberts Colquhoun and MacBryde', Sansom & Company, Bristol, 2010, p.368 

This extraordinary image demonstrates the power and tension at the heart of Robert Colquhoun's work, marking his importance alongside his contemporaries Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon in Post-War British painting. Drawing on his own personal experience and understanding of humanity, here Colquhoun has created an image that is at once statuesque and fragile, powerful yet vulnerable. 

Colquhoun would often focus on a pair or a single figure with a prop, but here the figure is alone and cropped so only the head is in focus. Other similar works are 'Head, study for Three Figures in a Farm Yard, 1953' (private collection), 'Weeping Woman, 1948' (The Dick Institute) and 'Head Study, 1953' (The Fleming Collection). This creates an increased intensity, even further focused in this work by how the artist has depicted his sitter staring directly into the eye of the viewing. The level of the two eyes distorted, it is easy to read his own experience as a queer man living in an oppressive society in this defiant look. 

The work is in many ways comparable to contemporaneous works such as Freud's 'Man's Head (Self Portrait III), 1963' (National Portrait Gallery, London) and Bacon's 'Head of Man, 1960' (Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art) and 'Study for Portrait II (after the Life Mask of William Blake), 1955' (Tate) in its visual contradictions; the carefully composed form giving way way to a fiery and manipulated interior. However, whereas Bacon would utilise imagery derived from photographic and found material, for Colquhoun the focus is entirely the figure from his memory. Colquhoun would return more prominently to singular isolated figures in his final series of monotypes that were exhibited posthumously at the Museum Street Galleries in 1962. A number of these works are now in the British Museum. 

The artist's painterly style was also strongly influenced by his friend and neighbour in Soho during the 1940s, Polish artist Jankel Adler. Adler had travelled to Glasgow, where Colquhoun studied, as a refugee during the war and became a central figure of European modernism in Britain. In London, Colquhoun would develop from Adler a post-Cubist approach to the human form, breaking down features to create a heightened sense of expression. He also learnt from Adler a highly textural approach to painting, seen here in the contrast between the flattened backdrop, the impasto-ed surface of the face and the slickly sensuous linear brushwork. A similar handling of form can be seen in 'Man with a Donkey Saddle, 1950' (Middlesburgh Institute of Modern Art). 

Colquhoun was a central figure in the artistic world of war-time London, alongside his life-partner Robert MacBryde and their friends John Craxton and John Minton. Colquhoun and MacBryde (or 'The Two Roberts' as they were called) shot to fame under the patronage of Peter Watson, with important exhibitions of their work held at The Lefevre Gallery, The Whitechapel Gallery and numerous international mixed exhibitions. Most recently their work was the subject of a major retrospective at The National Galleries of Scotland in 2014-15. 

During the 1950s Colquhoun and MacBryde worked in theatre design; the original owner of this work was a friend and important figure in British theatre, television and film. This work was most likely made around 1950, following Coluqhoun's trip to Italy with the poet George Barker, and was possibly featured in Colquhoun's exhibition with Lefevre Gallery that year. The Two Roberts were at this time living between their London studio and Lewes, at the invitation of the sister's Frances Byng-Stamper and Caroline Byng Lucas, who ran a gallery there and later established the Miller's Press, which would produce a number of the pair's prints. The artist's tragically short career and the scarcity of his work on the market marks this as a highly important work of the Post-War era. 

With thanks to Davy Brown, author of ‘Colquhoun’s Monotypes’ for his assistance in the cataloguing of this work. 

Buyer's Premium

The buyer shall pay the hammer price together with a premium thereon of 26% up to £20,000 (31.2% inclusive of VAT), 25% from £20,001 - £500,000 (30% inclusive of VAT), 20% from £500,001 thereafter (24% inclusive of VAT). The premium price is subject to VAT at the standard rate.

VAT is not charged on the hammer price unless it is stated that there is 'VAT applicable on the hammer price at the end of the description. Buyer's premium is subject to VAT.

Qualifying living artists and the descendants of artists deceased within the last 70 years are entitled to receive a re-sale royalty each time their work is bought through an auction house or art market professional.

It applies to lots with hammer value over €1,000 as follows:
0 to €50,000 - 4%, €50,000.01 to €200,000 - 3%
€200,000.01 to €350,000 - 1%,
€350,000.01 to €500,000 - 0.5%
Exceeding €500,000 - 0.25%
ARR is capped at €12,500

Please note ARR is calculated in euros. Auctioneers will apply current exchange rates.

Export of goods

Buyers intending to export goods should ascertain whether an export licence is required before bidding. Export licences are issued by Arts Council England and application forms can be obtained from its Export Licensing Unit. Details can be found on the ACE website www.artscouncil.org.uk or by phoning ACE on 020 7973 5188. The need for import licences varies from country to country and you should acquaint yourself with all relevant local requirements and provisions before bidding. The refusal of any such licences shall not permit the cancelling of any sale nor allow any delay in making full payment for the lot.

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